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Seth Rosenfeld Education. (2012) 'Subversives The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power.'

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Fbi 96, Aoki 48, Berkeley 15, J. Edgar Hoover 11, Us 7, Clark Kerr 7, Ronald Reagan 6, Bernie 4, Oakland 4, California 3, San Francisco 3, Hoover 3, U.s. 2, Steve Jacobson 2, Threadgill 2, Foia 2, The Fbi 2, Bobby Seale 2, Vietnam 2, Pat Brown 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Seth Rosenfeld  Education.  (2012) 'Subversives The  
   FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power.'  

    November 26, 2012
    6:30 - 8:00am EST  

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>> for that matter they couldn't even hand out a leaflet for goldwater for president. who was the candidate that year and had been nominated in san francisco. so the students tried to negotiate with the university. the university refused, and then in defiance, some of the
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students set up a card table right in front of the plaza and handed out leaflets. in short order, a police cruiser pulled into the middle of the plaza and arrested somebody named jack weinberg who was behind the table. but before they could go anywhere, students begin to sit down around the police car and soon the entire plaza was filled with students sitting round a police car. they held captive for the next 33 hours. and that was the beginning of the free speech movement. [applause] >> and the fsm went on to stage a number of protests, tried to negotiate with the university. ultimately, put on what was the biggest city in in the nation's history, roughly 800 people were arrested for sitting in overnight at the hall. and in the end, the region's
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revoked this move, essentially admitting that it was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights. but when this happened, who are already viewed kerr with suspicion, became convinced that kerr was absolutely untrustworthy, unreliable. because he believed clark kerr failed to crackdown on the free speech movement. and at this point hoover went beyond collecting information about clark kerr, and begin to actively try to get him fired. and the we hoover tried to do this was by leaking information to certain members of the board of regents who were opposed to clark kerr, with the idea that they could then use these allegations against try to convince other regions to find. they recruited an informer in the administration, in the university administration. >> one of the most astonishing things i found in my research is the extent to which the fbi
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involved itself in university affairs over a long period of time, and the extent to which the fbi developed informers at every level of the campus community, from student activists to professors, the vice chancellor, to members of the board of regents. those are just the ones that were in the documents. but ultimately, hoover's efforts bill. you could not get members of the board of regents to fire clark kerr. jerry brown's father was governor and he was a staunch supporter of clark kerr, and fbi officials relies as long as pat brown was governor, clark kerr would read as university of california president. so when ronald reagan was elected in november 1966, j. edgar hoover and other fbi officials do this as a breath of fresh it. they believe they finally had an out in the governor's mansion, and begin to work closely with ronald reagan to crackdown on student protesters and radical
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professors. >> so what happened? >> well, what the documents show that over the following years, well, what happened first is that one of the first things reagan does after he is elected is to phone the fbi request this briefing, which hoover personally authorizes. two wks later at fst board of regents meeting, attended by ronald reagan, the board of regents votes to fire clark kerr. the boards balance in power had shifted because reagan was nine-member and he made several appointments to it. one of the fbi documents that was released indicates that the board members were aware of certain fbi information that ronald reagan had at the time. and in the following months and years, the documents show that the fbi continue to cooperate with reagan and to secretly provide him reports on certain professors and students, with
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the goal of stifling their first amendment activities. >> so, give us an idea of how many fbi agents, what was going on in the fbi had a permanent outpost? >> yes. the fbi's regional office was in san francisco. that was a san francisco field office. and already pretty large, what they call resident agency, a satellite office in oakland, but in the 1950s the fbi opened another resident agency right in downtown berkeley in what was then the great western bank building, today the wells fargo building. and this was a sign that the fbi was increasingly focusing on the fence at the university of california. and in particular, first amendment activities. one way we know this is through the workforce. one of the former fbi agents i
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interviewed was a man named -- the special agent in charge of the office, and he provided me the personnel roster, and what it showed was approximately 40% or 50% of agents were devoted to security type investigations, and a much smaller proportion were devoted to traditional investigating traditional crime or espionage. so hoover's priorities were very clear. he was focusing on dissent at that time. >> so, i want to move on before, if we can, briefly, you discovered, having expanded since the book came out the role of informants, that is, a people operating at the direction of the fbi, and one of them you develop come in the book and you have subsequent documents, maybe you can explain how you discovered this and what it
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means. >> right. i believe you are referring to an informant named richard aop. well, the way i learned about richard was one day i was interviewing a former fbi agent named a birdie. i had met him in the course of doing my research, i've spent many hours with them over a period of months. and i, this process why would bring fbi documents and we would review them and discuss them, and i would take notes about this. well, one day i showed him some fbi records, without any prior notice, and as we are going through them, birdie said he noticed richardson income and he said a, i know that guy. he was my informant. and i was surprised to hear this, but we talked more about it and eventually i obtained a
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detailed on the record tape recorded statement from birdie about richard. i never deb richard before side then began to research who he was very i read everything i could find about him but i interviewed people who knew him. and been interviewed him, too. in 2007 i interviewed him twice on the telephone for about an hour each time, and tape recorder to it with his permission. and during the second interview i asked him if he remember a man named birdie. and his initial action was, who is that? and i said well, isn't it true used to work for the fbi? and he said something like who said that? i said well, bernie told me that. he said he did? and we talked some more and i
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pressed him for a direct response whether he actually worked for the fbi or not. and eventually he denied it. but then as we talked he said something else. he said people change. it's very complex. later upon later. so when i later reported the story, i included both his denial and the subsequent statement which i thought was significant. but even at that point i didn't think i had enough evidence to write the story. so after richard passed away in 2009, i submitted a freedom of information act request for any and all records on them. spent if you can explain, when you die -- >> well, when you die legally speaking you have a much diminished right to privacy. [laughter] so you're able to get more information. i'm sure if i'd submitted the
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request when he was still a lot, the fbi would not release a single page. but they come in this case, he passed away and the fbi eventually released by 1800 pages or so. one of the doctors that was released identified him as informant t2. based on my experience reviewing fbi records and have a gone through the court process several times, i was quite confident in my interpretation of what that record set. but just to be sure, i consult with another fbi agent, a man named wes swearengin pulitzer 25 years in the fbi, and then later became a critic of j. edgar hoover, particularly of hoover's practice of illegal break-ins to gather evidence. swearengin had played a key role
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in vacating the murder conviction of a black panther named geronimo pratt. the fbi had failed to disclose one of the key witnesses against proud have been an fbi informant. so swearengin reviewed some records that i had obtained and he came to the same conclusion i did, that richard was an informant. speak and biting someone who is paid regularly by the fbi for how many years of? >> well, at this point we're just examining whether he had been fbi informant at the time of this particular doctor. and swearengin gave me a sworn declaration that was filed in court stating that he believed richard had been an informant. but i went further. i took this evidence and i tested my thesis that a yogi was informed by examining any more fbi records, looking for anything which would contradict
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the aisles compared to several case studies of other activists would later be revealed as fbi informant. so based on this information i reported in my book that richard aoki have been an fbi and also reported this in a news story in the video that i prepared with the center for investigative reporting. >> we can keep it up a bit. i don't think we have time right now to look at it. if you want to see a video, a little later in the program, we can show you what went on in the video itself. why don't you go on with the narrative of? >> well, i knew that this information will be somewhat controversial because richard aoki is a very revered figure within the activist community, in berkeley, and also within the asian-american activist community, nationally. and i expected people to be
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skeptical. i expected some debate, but i was not prepared for some of the personal attacks that were made on me as a result of reporting that story. my motives are questioned. it was suggested that i was involved in framing richard aoki as an fbi informant. there's not a shred of evidence for that false charge. so there was a bit of a controversy over this. i think some additional records after that first story was prepared. these records were released as result of a lawsuit i had brought to force the fbi to release more information on richard aoki. the fbi took the position in court that it had no more files on aop. but after i submitted evidence in court with help of my attorneys, the court reversed the fbi and said well, fbi, you
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have to make an additional release of records. one of the documents i submitted as evidence was a document that identified richard aoki as t2. that's part of what convinced the court to order more evidence, or more fbi documents released. so the fbi released 201 pages of aoki's informant file, and these additional records show that aoki had been an fbi informant, a paid fbi informant from 1961 through 1977. >> now, he's importance, as clear in investigative reporting, the video that you can see online, one of the main reasons he is of so much interest is his involvement with the black panther party. >> yes. alt had been a student at meredith college in the mid 1960s, and there he met to fellow students, huey newton and
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bobby seals, and he became friendly with them. later when they form the black panther party in late 1966, they went to richard aoki's apartment in berkeley and talked to him about it. and asked him for guns. venue aopa gun collection. it been in the army, he was a gun aficionado. and richard aoki agree. and he gave them some of their first guns and firearms training and then he gave them some more weapons in early 1967. there's no dispute about this, bobby seale has written about it in his memoir, and richard aoki confirmed it in several interviews. so here was a situation, at the same time richard aoki was providing the black panthers with guns and firearms training, he was a paid fbi informant. and i want to make clear that i
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have no evidence that the fbi knew that a joke he was arming the panthers, or the fbi was involved in any way. nonetheless, this inescapable raises a question of what did the fbi know about this, if anything. into the fbi had any kind of involvement? >> so, the question becomes, who are the subversives? are they the people j. edgar hoover was after, or the fbi itself? subversive society that they lived in. >> i think the fbi documents made clear that j. edgar hoover's fbi was subverting the constitution, and bedrock american principles. and that ronald reagan joined in that process, contrary to his
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image. he did point the finger at people. he did report people to the fbi, because they had been involved in first amendment activities. and that raises the question, who were the real subversives? spent and i think with that, thank you. [applause] >> if you have any questions, we have some microphones if people will be walking around with the microphones, and if you could, i see some hands up, right behind you right there. >> and if you could identify yourself. >> jeff, i did a rough count there were 150 people here, and she said the bedrock american
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principles. checks and balances, the courts, used to the government. anybody else sued the government? i'd like to talk to you after. so, here we have approximately 6000 years of people being screwed by the government come and they haven't sued the government, use what you call core american principles. why is that? >> why haven't they sued? >> don't they believe in checks and balances? do they believe in power corrupts? why don't more people sue the government? >> i don't know if i have an answer. >> well, i can tell you, lease or my experience, suing the government is a lot of trouble. [laughter] it's very time-consuming, and it can be very expensive, and i'm very fortunate to have had the assistance of pro bono attorneys who handled my cases for more than two decades.
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the first amendment project in oakland gave me essentially -- [applause] >> jim we've and and david green, ben stein, a lawyer in oakland has given me great hope in the aoki matter. and tom steele for many years carried my case. [applause] >> and i've had financial support from several foundations, and from steve silverstein, and i'm very grateful for that. so it's a major undertaking and i think that it's, that maybe the reason why many people don't do it. >> you know, i always reflect on is when we start talking about the fbi, documents, the freedom of information act and the fact we now know this, it's also true that this is the only country, i know the brits do have a freedom of information act but haven't
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been litigated in britain, but this is the only country i know of in the world where you can actually get the documents of what we had to go secret police. and their own documents in their own words produce for us to look at. so it is an unusual experience to be able to do this. even though it's a pain in the. spent my name is steve jacobson. first of all, i don't know why, how anybody would believe anything the fbi says. secondly, it's kind of a key time here with the occupy movement has arrived, and this discrediting of iop can make a lot of present-day activists distrustful, paranoid, whatever. and i went to a meeting, i'm finishing. i went to a meeting 10 days ago with 200, mostly 60s
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activists, including myself. bobby seale, a lot of black panthers. and to a t., no one believes this, they all feel you have been used by the fbi to discredit aoki. and in other words, i'm not saying you are guilty but i'm saying you're being used by the fbi. everybody believes that. i'm just saying, defend himself, that's all. >> okay, i'm happy to respond to that. well, i spent a lot of time examining fbi records. i studied the fbi records, key procedures, and i've been very careful in doing my research. i think i described to you the many steps i went through before do i have enough evidence to report that richard aoki was an fbi informant. the other thing you should remember is the time that these fbi records were created, there was very little likelihood that
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they would ever see the light of day. the freedom of information act was incredibly weak and it wasn't very well used at the time. so i just don't believe that the fbi would create these records, give them to me now in an effort to discredit richard aoki three years after he died. i'm well aware of the fbi in some cases has trained people as fbi informant were placed the snitch ticket on the. however, there's not a shred of evidence that's what's happened here. and the people that made the allegation have done so in a responsible way. and i don't believe that they've examined the evidence in an open way. and i think that when this is all over, they will have to revise their estimation of his richard aoki was. spent my name is jack. first, i'm proud to say that i exist in a footnote in your
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book. [laughter] i would like to clarify something about the timeline on the aoki thing. in one of the "san francisco chronicle" articles, i believe, you said that aoki's first contact with the fbi was a result of his friendship with doug waldner. at berkeley high. in the context of the fbi tapping the phone. can you give something of a timeline as to when the fbi first made contact with aoki, with regard to doug waldner, and how that worked itself out ontologically? because god as you probably know in 1961 was one of the people
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called before the house un-american activities committee. during the whole washing down the stairs operation. >> right. well, i spoke with doug wachter about this, by the way. according to the former fbi agent bernie, they fbi had a wire topped on them. this wiretap take up a conversation between doug wachter and richard aoki. dug in richard were fellow students at berkeley in the mid-and late '50s. subsequent to that, the fbi approached richard aoki and asked them if you become an fbi informant. and the documents that were released from richard aoki's informant file are consistent with that. they contain references to richard aoki associate with
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certain people during the late '50s, and they show that he was approached at least by 1961, and that these documents, which the fbi tried very hard to cover up and which were released only as a result of a court order, turn out to have bernie's initials in the bottom of them. so they are consistent with what bernie told me. in essential ways. and what these documents show is that starting in 1961, richard aoki became active in very left wing groups including the young socialist alliance and the socialist workers party, later the vietnam day committee. the asian-american clinical science, the third world struck him and as was already mentioned, the black panthers. so that would be a rough chronology of the aoki's involvement with the fbi.
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[inaudible] >> apparently what happened, according to the fbi records, a healthy, we know this, aoki enlisted in the army and immediately upon graduating high school, according to the fbi records he spoke with an army official i discussed some of his associations at berkeley high school. is army official been reported this to the fbi, and then the fbi contacted aoki and enlisted him as an informant. so, if that answers your question. okay. >> my name is dan. just reef -- the republicans have made ronald reagan an icon as a great defender of freedom of expression and private rights. and thanks to your good work -- >> that should be thoroughly
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debunked. the other thing is we all know how, during the mccarthy era, the right wing and the people accuse people of being communist dupes. now the left is engage in the same certain things that we heard it here tonight trying to do the same thing to you, and i regret that profound that you're an extraordinary research. the question i have also deals with the black panthers. the black panthers needed some help with their books, and "ramparts" magazine editor was asked to send a bookkeeper over, and it was betty van patten. she saw that the panthers were -- elaine brown, we now know through wonderful works of the great african-american author hugh pearson, adam, a former publisher of ramparts, excuse
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me, "mother jones," we now know that the panthers had her murdered it and i'm wondering if in the researching a book you came across any further evidence of the fbi perhaps being privy of that information? >> now. no. i have not seen any information like that. and regard to your earlier comment about reagan, just to put in perspective this information about reagan, his previous biographers, including edmund morris, garry wills and edwards, all say in the biographies that they were frustrated by the very few pages that the fbi had released about reagan, and by the heavy redactions in those documents. so what we have at this point is the most complete record of ronald reagan's involvement with the fbi in the years prior to his becoming president. and i believe that this
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information sheds light on the evolution of reagan's politics, and helps explain his turn from being a liberal in his early hollywood days to being a staunch anti-communist in the years that followed. >> hi. my name is lori van garden, and i'm curious whether you have any idea how large, how many informers, infiltrators there were operating in the round, the various student groups, say from 64 to 70? vietnam day committee, friends of sncc, how extensive a network of people do they have working for them? do you have any idea? >> i can't give you a number but i can tell you it was extensive. and fbi informers and informants regularly attended campus
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events. we have a question here in front. [inaudible] >> i would first like to say in response to the last comments that the left has not attacked -- [inaudible]. but the left in general, whatever it is, has not. my other question has to do with richard aoki who i hadn't heard of until two weeks ago. is there any evidence that richard aoki gave the fbi any important information whatsoever about the panthers? did he tell them anything they didn't already know? anything they used in the war against the panthers?
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>> did everybody here the question? okay, the question is, did richard aoki give the fbi any significant information, particularly about the black panthers. .. >> it was j. edgar hoover's notes on some of the documents? >> there was a note on one document by an fbi official that said be sure to remind ayolk key to report his informant pay as income. [laughter] on his tax return.
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and then there was another note that said informant agrees to report his income. [laughter] >> my name, my name is toni platte. taking the few pages out of your book and making that your lead article in retrospect maybe wasn't the best choice. [laughter] >> actually, that wasn't -- that's not what happened. >> oh. >> i had two with articles that came out about the same time focusing on ronald reagan being an fbi informant. or, i should say, informer. >> oh, i didn't know that. so thanks for clarifying that. so as somebody who taught at the school of criminology in berkeley in the volatile late '60s and early '70s and who did research and published about the fb, and i whose looked at
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fbi records for a book that aye done on another -- that i've done on another o academic, i would say that the work you did was thorough, was careful, and there's no question that i think you made an accurate investigation. and i think we have to treat seriously the information that you provided us with. i think or there are many problems with the left reflecting about our history and our past and not wanting to deal with some aspects that might discredit us, don't want to hang our dirty laundry out for everybody to see, but i think in terms of passing on the lessons of our movement and what we were involved in, we have to rook at that and scrutinize it and overcome the kind of denial that is around the case right now. my question is, a very interesting piece in your book, one paragraph where you say in 1966 reagan was considering asking the fbi to set up an fbi kind of academy in berkeley. and that was just before the school of criminology begins to
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be investigated and closed down. i had fbi agents in my class. the first reports i see of informants and agents are in my fbi folder in 1969. and i wondered if that, if you followed up on that particular lead to see if there's any connection between that proposal in 1966 and what eventually happened to the closing down of the school of criminology. >> it's a very interesting question. i don't, i didn't see information on that. what struck me is particularly interesting about reagan's announcement in 1966 that he would open a school dedicated to fighting crime and subversion near berkeley. in the midst of his campaign. j. edgar hoover had a publicly-stated policy in which he would not get involved in any kind of political campaign. but he sent reagan a letter
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saying that he endorsed his idea for this crime-fighting academy, and reagan then used that letter during his campaign. >> microphones? >> yeah. my name is liz, and i have two questions. i'm wondering, is there any possibility aoki is milking the fbi for information and manipulating them? [applause] and then my other question, the most shocking thing i heard you say tonight is that in the middle of the cold war, j. edgar hoover can't just say fire clark cur and everybody falls in line. i'm curious to know, i mean, pat brown and everybody else, how they managed that. >> right. well, in regard to aoki as i've stated before, the fbi redacted all the summaries, so we don't know what information he did or didn't provide, and we don't know if the fbi even knew he was
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arming the black panthers. so i can't speculate on that. as a journalist, i don't want to speculate on that. i just wanted to report the facts that i could determine. and then in regard to hoover, i think things are more complex even at the height of the cold war. hoover could not simply issue an edict and have somebody fired. there were layers of politics and different agencies involved. and what the documents do show very clearly is that in the 1960s and 1965 hoover mounted a concerts effort to get clark cur fired. it's not just me saying this. the fbi tried to withhold this information on the ground that it concerned law enforcement, and i challenged that in court, and the court ruled that, no, this is not law enforcement. the evidence shows that the fbi was abusing its powers in an effort to get clark cur removed
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because fbi officials disagreed with his politics and his campus policies. >> not everybody loved j. edgar hoover. [laughter] >> i'm peter dale scott, and i wanted to ask a question about -- [inaudible] but first i have a comment for steve jacobson in the back. if there were 200 people together in a meeting, you can be absolutely certain that some of them were informants, and if i was one, i would have attacked the idea that aoki -- that the fbi could have recruited aoki. [applause] now, my question is about intel pros in the bay area. i regret that i haven't read your book yet, although i certainly will. as a point of person privilege in a bay, i was looking at co-intel documents, i was on the cuba committee, but there were copies distributed to other files, and one of the files i
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remember -- i've not been able to rotate it since -- was a file on the bay area institute which interested me because i helped found that institute with -- [inaudible] there were only four of us in it, we were all academics, it led to the position of the pacific news service which is now new american media. but i remember there were quite a few stories of people who penetrated the anti-war movement in berkeley specifically, whether it was berkeley police or who knows. so could you tell something about co-intel pros in your book, if they exist? >> yeah. co-intel pro was a secret program that hoover started in the 1950s in response to a u.s. supreme court decision. the u.s. supreme court had reversed the convictions of communist party leaders on the ground that it wasn't illegal just to be in the communist party. the government, you needed to
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show that kindist party -- communist party members were actively involved in trying to illegally overthrow the government. so this put a big crimp in hoover's operations. and he began the program. secret operation that was aimed at disrupting and neutralizing people. and the first co-intel pro was focused on the communist party, the second one was on the socialist workers party. there was another one on the new left, another one on white hate groups and another one on what the fbi called black nationalist hate groups. and in the files concerning the university of california, you do see co-intel pro documents where, for example, on mario savio where the fbi goes beyond collecting information and using that information to try and disrupt and neutralize people like savio who were engaged in
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nonviolent, civil disobedience. yeah, so -- >> hi. my name's scott. i'm over here. how you doing? >> hi. >> yeah, i just thought of a question. i was involved with the occupy movement for a little while, and not necessarily here at berkeley, but in oakland. i wanted to hear, like, about any parallels you might see if you follow the occupy movement between what happened in the '60s and '70s and what happened now, and if you see any parallels in, like, how the uc, has done now to maybe prevent those kind of things happening? yeah, just what we can learn from all this. >> right. well, there are some parallels to occupy and the current, or i should say to occupy and the free speech movement of 1964.
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they were both mass movements, both conducted openly protests against government policy. and if both cases you see the university as an institution reacting and trying to limit those protests. i think the best lesson that occupy people could learn from the free speech movement is that organizations and activists can protect themselves existence infiltrators -- against infiltrators and disruption by operating openly and nonenvironmently. and -- nonviolently. and that was the free speech movement's model. and perhaps there's something to be learned there. there's one other subject that hasn't come up yet i'd like to mention briefly, and that's the freedom of information act. i've had the opportunity to do research in fbi records under six different presidential
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administrations, i think starting with jimmy carter. [laughter] and i've had the opportunity to see how different administrations respond to the foia. and i think it's true that, um, the democrats are somewhat friendlier to the freedom of information act. but by and large, consistently no matter who's in office, the fbi withholds -- improperly withholds -- public information that should be released. and it's been personally disappointing to me that when president obama came into power one of the first things he did was to issue a them poe in support -- a memo in support of the freedom of information act. and he was very strong about in this. but that memo apparently never reached the fbi. [laughter] because to this day the fbi continues to withhold what is plainly public information and has been involved in expensive court or fights using taxpayer dollar cans. so it's very disappointing to me
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about that. >> one comment about the past and the present. the fact is that if the fbi is focused on any community today that it has infiltrated with informants, that it has instituted programs that are looking for patterns of behavior as opposed to evidence of crime, the islamic community in the united states. and that's not affecting necessarily many of you here in this room. there's some work we've done at the investigative reporting program. here at berkeley it's going to be issued soon as a book called "the terror factory." and really it's the story of the fbi manufacturing terrorist conspiracies within the islamic community nationally and which account for almost 98% of their cases. and so it's not happening here in berkeley that way, it's happening in other communities in the country. >> my name's gary aguilar.
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i'm very much an admirer of your work. and for those of us that are concerned about privacy rights and about our right to a certain amount of transparency, which i'm very despond dent about with obama, what recommendations do you have for us to encourage this and to try to prevent the government from, you know, continuing to escalate what appears to be pretty much a police state in this country? >> well, well, i would say that today's fbi is very different than j. edgar hoover's fbi. there's much more public oversight, there's much more congressional oversight. in j. edgar hoover's day, there was virtually no congressional oversight. and bob mueller is a very different director of the fbi than j. edgar hoover was. nonetheless, the fbi depends on
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a combination of secrecy and power to do its job, and that combination of secrecy and power is, poses inherent threats to democracy. it's a dangerous combination. and i think it's incumbent upon citizens and lawmakers to demand transparency and accountability. and that's probably the best way to make sure there is transparency, to be actively involved. >> i have a similar question on foia. my name system ying li. i want to know what you think the prospects are for the redacted information of all the -- the most interesting information, the most vital information being released sometime in the future? >> right. you mean specifically in the richard aoki documents? >> no, no, all the -- i mean
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most fbi documents have been redacted than released. and i just wondered if there's anything in the original or subsequent foia laws which would allow 50 years down the line, 100 years down the line when everyone is dead -- [laughter] for that information to be -- >> right. there are certain rules on automatic declassification that require records to be released, and that has resulted in the release of much more information. but overclassification of records is a huge problem in government, it has been for decades. and it's very frustrating to people who are trying to understand their history. what you see in these records is that in the 950s and 1960s j. edgar hoover's fbi was secretly involved in events, in effect, trying to alter history by tampering with people's first
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amendment rights, by leaking information, by shaping how people viewed events at the university. and all these decades later you see the fbi, today's fbi, withholding information, public information from records which is, in effect once again, interfering with our understanding of history. in effect, shaping what we know to be our history. >> microphones are where? we've got 'em -- >> hello? hi, my name is samantha lye, i'm a third year asian-american studies here at berkeley, and my question is if you have no way to verify what information richard aoki provided as an informant, then what reason do you think he had for doing this and if possible he may have been
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doing it as a way to protect the organizations he was a part of. >> right. well, i think i've described the steps i went through to double check my information, and it was based on that research that i concluded that richard aoki was an fbi informant, okay? so that's an answer to the first part of your question. as to what richard aoki may have told the fbi, we simply do not know because the fbi has deleted that information. many people have speculated on -- >> [inaudible] >> fred gill did tell me that richard aoki would attend meetings, he would report who was there and what they said. but as to the specifics, we just don't know those details. and many people have speculated that aoki may have been a double agent, or he was working both sides of the fence. we just don't know. >> i'm tom, and was your life
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ever in danger? is did you ever feel that? [laughter] >> the only time i felt my life was in danger was if a stack of fbi records would fall on me. [laughter] >> which was a real hazard. there's a microphone back there. >> hi. my name is casey, i am also an asian-american studies major here on campus, and i wanted a few clarification questions. so when did you start your research on, um, these activist movements? >> um, i started my research that led to this book in 1981. >> and what year was it when you found out about richard aoki through the fbi agent threadgill? >> sometime around 2002, roughly speaking. >> okay. so my question is, how is it that in doing research about student activism richard aoki is
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a very large figure, he's very prominent especially here on the berkeley campus and in general with student activism. how is it that in such a large time span you didn't -- and i believe you said it yourself, you didn't know about him there will you talked to threadgill in 2007, 2002? so how is it that his name escaped your research for such a long amount of time if. >> sure. actually, richard aoki was well known within the activist community in the 1960s and 1970s, but he was not well known outside of that community. it's only in late 2009, early 2010 with the release of a documentary called "aoki" that he started to get more prominence. and then again earlier this year when a biography of him was released. so that's when richard aoki became more well known beyond the activist community itself.
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and there are actually many activists who i never heard of until i started doing my research and learned about them along the way. >> hi. my name is liza -- i'm over here -- and i'm a science journalist. my question dose to the -- i mean, so it's so difficult to get at any of the information even on richard aoki and your question about we know the documents show that aoki was providing guns to the panthers at the same time he was an informant, so my question is -- and then the next logical question is, what does the fbi know. so if they're redacting so much information on all the people they have information on, how on earth do you get to the information and their own dealings? so their documents are, obviously, they're not going to be revealing that information on themselves, so what other strategies do you use as an investigative reporter to get that information? because that's the next logical story, and i'm sure you're
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working on it. >> sure. >> what are you doing? >> well, as i explained when i was researching aoki, i used a variety of methods. i used interviews of former fbi agents who knew him at the time, i read everything that was published about him, i went through court records, i filed freedom of information act requests and lawsuits, so all these were methods that i used to conduct that research, and i think they're all fairly typical journalistic methods. >> and what are you going to do now? >> [inaudible] >> what am i going to do now? >> yeah. how are you going to get beyond the redactions? >> i'm going to try using these same methods. >> my name is -- [inaudible] and i am with the irp program here at the school, investigative reporting program. and you started your talk by saying that the fbi veered from its original mission, but you didn't tell us how that
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happened, what was the mechanism that led the fbi to veer from its original mis. how -- mission. how did they rationalize it? what was it? did they suspect dissent equals being a foreign spy for a country? how did they move from the original mission to whatever they were doing at the time? >> right. hoover was fixated on the communist party, and he believed that anybody in the communist party was a potential threat to the united states. and as the years went by, he expanded that definition of subversive. in fact, there's to legal definition of subversive. >> be. [inaudible] >> yes. >> one more document. >> let's see, where are you? >> you can see it up here, i have a hard copy of it. he has, seth explains in his book one of the things the fbi did was they created a list of 15,000 people who were to be rounded up in the event of a national emergency, and they
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called it a security index. you get a security index card, and you might also have what they call an agitator index card that went with it, and it's not a reference to a washing machine. [laughter] and i have one up here that shows that i wasn't on the list. for my freedom of information request for my file. and went from, actually, went from the second group to be rounded up to the third group, and then they finally dropped it in 1975. but in 1975 in the wake of congressional hearings, a lot of these activities ended. they simply stopped, the fbi stopped doing them domestically. at least as far as we know. >> next question? >> um, yeah. yes, i've got the microphone here. i'd like to know whether it's
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possible, whether you could make a logical jump from the fbi -- or to the place of the fbi providing these weapons. because that seems to me to be critical information. did the fbi do stuff like that? i mean, is this a kind of tactic that you would say, look, the fbi could definitely do that, you know, arrange with one of their informants to provide weapons? from yeah. well, yes, that did happen, and you can read about it in the reports of senator frank church's committee. these are the same reports, the same congressional hearings lowell was just mentioning in the mid '70s. >> so you would say that it, that is a logical jump? would you suggest that we could assume given the behavior of the fbi that they would, of course,
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support the idea of giving guns to the black panthers? because that would be a reason to crush them? >> no. that's not what i'm saying. i'm saying something very more specific than that. i'm saying what we know about richard aoki was he was a paid fbi informant at the time of the black panthers. we also know about the same time j. edgar hoover was intent on destroying the black panthers. but what i've also said is we do not know whether the fbi had any involvement or even knew what richard aoki was doing, so it's actually complicated. >> one more question. over here. >> hi. my name's katherine, and i've heard you speak tonight and also on npr the other day, and it reminded me of my life, um, in the '60s when there was an awful lot of shooting of black panthers and how disturbing that was. and to now hear what you have to
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say, that it may have been fbi involvement, um, having armed the panthers and led to some of these incredible assassinations. so i'm wondering if you're making any of those kind of connections here. >> um, no, i'm not going that far. i can only report what i know, which is that aoki was a paid fbi informant at the time he was in the black panthers, and anything beyond that would be speculation. >> i think if you're curious about it, you may even go back to the original church committee hearings and reports. they did extensive reports, and they did an extensive report on co-intel pro, this operation, and it primarily involved secretly trying to incite various groups against each other. and in some cases that resulted in people being killed. but i don't know of any evidence of them supplying weapons directly in those reports to any
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domestic group. >> like they do today? [laughter] >> i don't know what they're doing to do in that regard at all. i do know of one incident where they did, where they, you know, white supremacist organization which did a shoot anything san diego and shot an innocent person in an office in a drive-by shooting, and they did hide the weapon afterwards. but in the end those people actually, well, they were dismissed from the fbi for that. but i don't know of any incidents where they actually supplied weapons. >> if anybody is interested in the seeing richard aoki's fbi informant file, i would invite you to visit the web site for the center for investigative reporting where we have posted the entire file. >> and there's also -- [applause] and there's also a ten-minute video on i-files as part of cir and on youtube with seth in it discussing the case, and you can actually hear the video -- you
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can hear the audio soft -- of some of the interviews he did. so with that, seth, thank you very much. [applause] >> you're watching booktv on c-span2, 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend. >> here's a look at some books that are being published this week. a follow-up to the best selling book "the black swan." it's titled, "antifragile: things that gain from disorder." james t. patterson in "the 'of destruction: how 1965 transformed america." in "the famine plot: england's
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role in ire rapid's greatest tragedy," pat coogan. eleanor jones harvey interprets a czech of paintings and photography about the civil war awith text by famous authors of the time. in "counting one's blessings: the selected letters of queen brit, the queen mother," william shawcross provides a collection of letters written by queen elizabeth i. kevin phillips argues that the turning point for the american revolution was actually in 1775 rather than 1776 in "1775: a good year for revolution." look for these titles in bookstores this coming week and watch for the authors in the near future on booktv and on booktv.org. >> you've been